When a patient presents with symptoms of abnormal bladder functioning, their doctor or urologist will take them through a diagnostic process to determine the source of their symptoms and begin planning appropriate treatment.
Bladder problems can arise from a range of possible causes, including various medical conditions such as infections or neurological diseases, and a patient’s treatment plan needs to take into account the root cause of their symptoms. Treatment may also vary depending on how a particular patient’s symptoms manifest - for example, whether or not the patient experiences incontinence (bladder leaks), and what type of incontinence.
The diagnostic process typically begins with a doctor’s review of the patient’s symptoms, medical profile, and medical history, as well as a physical exam. For many patients, it also includes diagnostic tests to assess the functioning of the bladder. Keep reading to learn what a bladder function test is, how it works, and its role in the diagnostic process for overactive bladder and other bladder-related conditions.
Frequently called urodynamic testing, a bladder function test assesses the bladder’s ability to store and release urine. It can determine whether the bladder is contracting involuntarily, which can cause frequent urges and incontinence (leaks).
Though it is referred to as bladder function testing, urodynamic testing can involve any part of the lower urinary tract, including the bladder, sphincters, and urethra. Essentially, bladder function tests look at how well the system that controls urination is working.
The terms “bladder function test” and “urodynamic test” actually refer to a number of different tests. These include:
The bladder function tests above directly assess the functioning of the parts of the lower urinary tract. Doctors may perform additional tests that do not directly measure bladder functioning but help provide a fuller picture of the patient’s symptoms.
For example, the doctor may have you do a cough stress test to determine whether you experience stress incontinence. You may also undergo neurological testing to rule out neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s. Finally, your doctor may perform a urinalysis, or a test of your urine sample, to identify the presence of infections (such as urinary tract infection, or UTI) or diabetes.
Doctors may recommend bladder function tests for anyone presenting with symptoms of bladder dysfunction, including those associated with overactive bladder (OAB). Such symptoms include:
For more information, learn about the signs and symptoms of overactive bladder.
The results of your bladder function tests will ideally provide clarity about the source and nature of your symptoms so that your treating doctor can help you plan the appropriate treatment. You may discover that your symptoms are tied to an underlying medical condition that needs to be treated. Or, you may be diagnosed with overactive bladder (OAB), a chronic condition characterized by frequent urination and possibly incontinence with leaks.
In the second case, the patient care pathway consists of the following steps, starting with more conservative treatments and moving to pharmaceutical and more advanced therapies if previous treatment strategies are not effective:
The Axonics System uses Sacral Neuromodulation to restore normal bladder functioning. With this therapy, a small implant delivers mild electrical impulses to the sacral nerve, stimulating healthier bladder function. Learn more about The Axonics System and whether this therapy is right for you.
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